The Verse’s Nanette Hewitt shares her thoughts on The Handsome Family and the support act Courtney Marie Andrews, after a Country-Americana filled gig at Brighton’s Concorde 2.
The first thing I noticed when I strolled into a busy Concorde 2 was how much younger I was than the rest of the crowd. Admittedly I wouldn’t associate country music with youth culture. But with talents like Courtney Marie Andrews and The Handsome Family around, country music is definitely alive and kicking.
Courtney Marie Andrews and The Handsome Family (Brett and Rennie Spark) are both American and frequently joked about the states. The supporting act, Courtney Marie Andrews had confessed her mum didn’t understand why she had written the lyrics; “The jukebox is playing a sad country song for all the ugly Americans” in the song How Quickly your Heart Mends, making her feel like a angsty teenager again. Although since Donald Trump’s ascent to presidency and the consequent uproar I would reason it goes deeper than that, especially when Courtney said her birthday was on election day and rather than celebrating she felt miserable. She said the day after she wrote the song Heart and Mind with the intention of empowering women.
Her style and sound is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, who I absolutely adore- beautiful, soulful, country ballads that just seem so natural. The simple combination of Courtney on an acoustic guitar accompanied by a pedal steel guitar made it incredibly fresh and mesmerising. My favourites were Table for One and How Quickly your Heart Mends both off her album Honest Life which was released this year.
I had no idea what a pedal steel guitar was before this gig but it was an integral instrument for both performers to achieve that authentic country-esque sound. Courtney referred to it as a cheese grater like object- a pretty accurate description as far as I’m concerned. The Handsome Family, well you could definitely tell they were husband and wife. Their rapport on stage was playful and mischievous. Rennie had a beautiful flowing dress on, which she had bought from a charity shop in Brighton that day because she didn’t have anything remotely clean. But it completely went with their vibe- who would’ve guessed it wasn’t a vintage piece from Nashville itself!
I really enjoyed Far from Any Road which is the theme track for season 1 of True Detective. They said that when they received the email they thought it said Tail Detective and imagined a show about cats solving crime (someone should really make that a reality). My other highlights were Gold, Weightless Again and The Loneliness of Magnets.
A coconut shell was sat at the front of the stage, halfway through the set they explained that it was called either Headly or Shelly and Brett had grown attached to it during their tour. Just before they went off for their encore they went into a sort of experimental jam. In which, Brett picked up the coconut shell and was using it against the strings of his guitar as a makeshift guitar slide.
Both Courtney Marie Andrews and The Handsome Family continue on their European tours. Hopefully they will return to the shores of Brighton soon.